Opinion - Thought Leadership, your say and the industry's say....

Look at your business’ needs when considering vehicles for Clean Air Zones

Motoring Journalist Quentin Willson speaks with the Lex Autolease panel of industry experts regarding new Clean Air Zones and how they will impact UK business.


Lex Autolease Greener Futures DebateDuring the Greener Futures Debate on  Clean Air Zones Chris Chandler, Principal Consultant, Lex Autolease said that Clean Air Zones is “one of the tools in the toolbox that Government and local authorities can use to address those urban air issues.

“One of the issues is that people don’t fully appreciate what these zones actually are and which vehicles they’re affecting,” he added.

“The key thing from my perspective is not taking knee-jerk reactions based on some misinformation that’s out there at the moment.”

Joining in the debate, Jay Parmar, Director of Policy, British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, spoke about fuel types: “We know that diesel make no sense if you’re just doing short journeys, so it’s more consultative.

“Look at your actual business needs, where are you travelling from and to? And select the right products.

“Because today we are fortunate to have such a wide range of different technologies.

“And I think it’s picking the right solutions for your journeys and making sure those match.”

Watch the full debate below



Why I have signed the UK up to zero emissions by 2050

The UK has become the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore MP explains why he has signed the UK up to the tough commitment.

Chris Skidmore: Energy and Clean Growth Minister

The new target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

“The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions.

“Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 while remaining committed to growing the economy - putting clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“We’re pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy.”

The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels.

“The UK has already reduced emissions by 42% while growing the economy by 72% and has put clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“This could see the number of “green collar jobs” grow to 2m and the value of exports from the low carbon economy grow to £170bn a year by 2030.”

The UK’s 2050 net zero target — one of the most ambitious in the world — was recommended by the Committee on Climate Change, the UK’s independent climate advisory body.

Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage

The government is hosting Green GB Week on 4 November to encourage all corners of the country and sectors of society to play their part in meeting these ambitious targets.


  • For more information about what the government is doing to tackle climate change, visit the Green GB Week website.
  • Read the Government’s Industrial Strategy



Autonomous vehicles will be safer than ones driven by humans

Former Transport for London MD, Leon Daniels OBE argues that the move to autonomous vehicles will ultimately save lives, compared with error-prone human drivers

Leon Daniels OBE

Second only to the choice of being in or out of the EU comes the opinions on autonomous vehicles (AVs).

If I read the respected Christian Wolmar’s book on this subject, supported by his spirited piece on television on Sunday Politics, then he advances a strong argument against: The Roman’s legacy of narrow and meandering streets and roads will be too difficult for the artificial intelligence of AVs.

Unlike Singapore and the USA where city streets are on a grid-like pattern, Britain has a range of street shapes and sizes, a proliferation of cyclists and an infinite number of pedestrians.

Lastly in Wolmar’s world the transition, through a mixed autonomous and manually driven environment would be impossible. It would be like changing from driving on the left to the right in a phased approach lasting several years.

The move to autonomous is in fact progressive. A new car today has dynamic cruise control, lane-keeping assist, parking assist, automatic emergency braking and so on. There is less and less for the driver to do if they choose. This will continue and we will get used to it.

Secondly, both the government and business want the efficiencies and savings that AVs can bring.

More importantly AVs will very much safer. Four or five people are killed every day by manually-driven vehicles. And while AVs may never be foolproof, they will undoubtedly have a better safety record than manually driven vehicles.

Nothing here suggests that any form of public transport will be without any human attention – the driverless Docklands Light Railway proved you can release people from a monotonous and stressful job into something more rewarding and at a lower cost.

AVs will come with major social changes – the whole illogical concept of owning a rapidly-depreciating box on wheels that you use two-three hours each day ought to be despatched.

We cannot predict to what extent people will cut loose from this and there will be those who will struggle. But we can notice that young people are far less bothered about ownership.

We would do well to remember that we (ageing) transport professionals are not the target market and there may well be greater acceptance of the social changes than we care to believe.

More importantly, the Achilles heel of the small demand-responsive bus (the disproportionate cost of labour as a proportion of total costs) is hugely improved and may help enormously in certain areas whether rural or suburban.

So, autonomous vehicles. Like Project Apollo to the Moon will it be more than 50 years between demonstrating our capability and finding a use for it? Or, will we make good progress towards much better safety, great efficiency, affordability and improving our lives? I think the latter.



Public transport needs to remain a choice, not become a forced decision in the climate change debate

What do people think about how their transport is powered, and how does it affect their decisions. Transport Focus CEO Anthony Smith examines the evidence

Transport Focus CEO Anthony Smith

Has something shifted in the heated debate on climate change? The Extinction Rebellion protests, Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and others have seemingly tilted thinking to a point where every initiative, every organisation and all of us must think a bit more about the effect we are having on the planet.

What is the transport user view on all this? We plan to do some more work to find out as, especially in the context of the work we do with young people where green issues are mentioned more and more frequently, this will become an increasing force.

While for many people car is preferable or the only realistic option for their journeys, how those cars are powered is changing. Electric vehicles are spreading, but the places to charge them are not – this is a big debate where the consumer voice needs to be heard loud and clear.

Making public transport a better choice will benefit both existing and new passengers. A lot of the work done by Transport Focus is about achieving this.

The latest National Rail Passenger Survey shows that when the industry and governments focus on reliability it buoys up satisfaction. New trains with more seats, wi-fi that works and power sockets means more room for everyone to have a better journey experience whilst on the move.

However, when Transport Focus did work in 2007 on rail passengers and green issues the ‘greenness’ of rail travel validated passengers’ choices, but didn’t guide them. Last year Transport Focus also asked rail passengers whether the last train on which they travelled was electric or diesel-powered.

A full 80% considered electric trains better for the environment than diesel but almost half admitted if the train is on time and comfortable they don’t care how it is powered, suggesting even a year ago passengers placed more importance on the potential operational benefits of electrification (i.e. improved reliability and speed) than on the positive environmental impact of this change.

More research in this area is now essential, so we have a more up to date picture of how far environmental concerns are – or are not – already driving different consumer travel choices.

The target set in mid-June by the Welsh and UK governments to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will have practical consequences for how people travel – and far sooner than many of us might like to imagine.

Public transport needs to remain a choice, not become a forced decision.

We each make our transport decisions based on netting off choice, cost, convenience and control – the four ‘C’s’.

Why do so many people will take a taxi to the airport? It’s often seen as more convenient; can make you feel more in control and may well be a rare pleasure – and even a highly cost effective one for a group of friends or an entire family – well worth the cost.

Shared transport can only bear part of the load. Many trains are full already and stations are becoming swamped – and there must be a point when it won’t be possible to add more carriages to the long trains already coming into city centres? We might need to think about hubs and then massively boosted metro and tube services for onward journeys.

Continued efforts to boost the space for more and longer trains is vital – let’s get on and build HS2 as it will offer more sustainable travel choices in future*.

Bus use has been declining for a variety of reasons, but local authorities must now become brave politically and make the changes that will keep bus travel reliable and therefore attractive.

It’s clear from the Bus Passenger Survey that the core product is OK – where they run people love their buses.

Coach passengers also love their choice this mode offers them, but policy makers can’t really seem to get their heads around how to break down some enduring stigmas that surround that product – more thinking needed here.

So, Transport Focus will be doing work with transport users on green issues to make sure the work it does going forward will reflect and amplify their views. What do you think?

*Phase one of the HS2 project to build a high speed rail line linking London and the West Midlands was the first UK infrastructure development to be awarded BREEAM certification for its sustainability.

Transport Focus is the independent transport user watchdog. Its mission is to get the best deal for passengers and road users. With a strong emphasis on evidence-based campaigning and research, its advocacy closely reflects what is happening on the ground. This knowledge is used to influence decisions on behalf of passengers and road users, to secure improvements and make a difference.